Planning Ahead is required if you Want to Start Plants from Seeds

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Before going into why growing plants from seed is extremely rewarding, fun, and even spiritual, let’s discuss why planning ahead is so important.

Planning Steps

First – You need to consider our climate and planting zone because you can’t move new, tender seedlings outdoors until it is safe for them to grow. In order to plan for this appropriately, you really need to prepare a plan of when to start your seeds. Your very first step is finding out what your last spring frost date is for your planting area and then work (count) backwards on your calendar. How many weeks you need to count back from the last frost date depends on the type of seeds you are planning to sow.

Second – You need to make a calendar or chart to plan out each variety of seed you plan to sow. Making a calendar is important because if you start seeds too early, the seedlings or starter plants will be ready before it is safe to move and grow them outdoors. Starter plants (seedlings) waiting inside will start to grow too large and this will cause growing issues which may result in unsuccessful plants when planted outdoors. And the opposite will happen if you start seeds too late, you will end up not having them ready in time for the outdoor growing phase and the plant’s fruits will mature too late to harvest them.

Third – Seeds sown need to be transitioned from cell trays to larger pots, and then transitioned during a hardening off stage – all before they are transplanted into your gardens or container gardens outdoors. If all three of these steps above are not thought out in regards to timing, you could waste some valuable and enjoyable growing time of your treasured starter plants, and not to mention waste soil, water, and other resources.

While it is not as complicated as it may seem, it is a bit of a process to plan these steps out if you want to increase your chances of success. It requires some pre-planning and organizing.

The good news is, after some seasons of practice, trial and error, and success, you start to master the process and develop some of your own successful methods and routines which you acquire along the way. Truly rewarding, and a bit addicting.

So where do you begin if you are a beginner?

There are many seed planning charts out there, websites, planting apps, and helpful resources to determine all of this planning and calendaring information, but in my opinion, it is not as easy as a “click” and marking the date on your calendars.

You want to plan ahead AND make a schedule. And now (late-Feb) is about the time to do this planning effort, if not sooner. It takes a bit of thinking, organizing, and considerations.

Even thinking about how many plants you are able to grow based on your layout of containers or patio pots and/or garden space at your home is necessary. And thinking about what types of vegetables you want to grow and why – do you enjoy them for cooking, slicing, snacking, sauteing, or even grinding for flakes to use in recipes? All of these aspects should at least be pondered upon during your planning process in order to avoid some pitfalls or disappointments.

Thankfully, my upcoming “Seed Starting Sessions” are here to guide you.

I have already done much of the “planning and calendaring” legwork for my upcoming seed starting sessions in March and April. In these sessions, we will go over how to do the planning so you will be prepared when you go do this on your own next season, and we will plant various tomato and pepper seeds in large trays to grow in my greenhouse.

You will learn about the how to’s of sowing, about various soil mixes, appropriate tools and how to maintain them, and potential problems you may encounter. You will learn all of this while attending these sessions in my greenhouse, so we will go over some information on what to consider in a hobby greenhouse growing environment as well – which is a bonus.

In April, you will revisit your seedlings, see your progress, and make any necessary adjustments. Or if you wish, you may take your trays home to watch the germination and growing process while you maintain all steps there. It is up to you!

Seed selection is always key in regards to timing.

Even before the planning and calendar phases, the fun phase of selecting seeds is another important step. Starting plants from seed gives you the wonderful option of growing unique and favorable varieties based on your style and tastes. Often these unique varieties are not found in local garden centers.

If you want to sow something out of the ordinary, selecting seed ahead is important and should be planned ahead, which I have done for my upcoming seed starting sessions.

I use a trusted, reputable, and well-orchestrated seed company. We will be sowing cherry tomato seeds as well as seeds of various large tomato varieties. We have hot peppers and sweet peppers on the list. Each I hand-picked due to various traits – such as, they are reliable, easy, produce a large harvest, and yummy.

Some varieties chosen are ideal for snacking and others perfect for enhancing flavors of sauces. Some are large slicers for sandwiches and others are decorative in pots when they flower too – after all – container gardening is always key on my list.

Other varieties selected grow well in hanging baskets and some in large pots. One really special seed variety I have chosen produces 3 lb. fruit – imagine that?! And most importantly, all the seeds are certified organic, heirlooms, and/or open pollinated.

Lastly, there will be other seed types to mix into the planting trays for herbs, salads, or flowers. You will have some flexibility of choices in your large seed tray to sow and grow.

Dates of the Seed Sessions are March 23 (Part I) and April 13 (Part II):

In regards to planning ahead, now is also the time to sign up and get on the sessions list. Seeds are so fun to grow – you learn the process and are able to grow many varieties and many plants.

Some of your new seedlings you could pass along to your children or grandchildren to grow in their kid’s garden, and some you may want to give away as gifts, but I bet your bottom dollar, many you won’t be able to part with after you learn about the great aspects of growing plants from seed and value that you grew them yourself, not to mention the taste! Fresh is best – we all know homegrown tomatoes are out of this world compared to store bought – you would be nuts not to agree!

Growing plants from seeds takes some time and considerations on where you will grow them, and as started above, proper planning – but it also saves you money because you can grow so many more for the price of one transplant from a garden center. And because most of the legwork, materials, and tools are being prepared right now for my upcoming seed starting sessions, it will save you time and the need to go get materials, seeds, and tools on your own. And the materials are reusable.

And not to mention, by attending, you are gaining valuable space to put out your seed trays with heating mats to warm the soils, and natural sunlight of a greenhouse for their growing environment. If you rather take your trays home to keep them going, that is an option. We hope you will consider joining us and plan ahead.

To learn more, visit, and feel free to ask any questions in advance.

Cathy Testa
Location: Broad Brook, CT

Upcoming Events and Holiday Fun

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Happy Last Day of November Everyone!

12/1 and 12/5 Holiday Workshops

Tomorrow kicks off my holiday fun – starting with the 9th Annual Kissing Ball and Wreath Making Workshop on 12/1/18 – Can’t wait to see all my creative elves yet again.

Then the following Wed, 12/5, is the 2nd Beginner Workshop and we have a large group forming – but still could squeeze in a few more elves if interested.

Location is Broad Brook, CT.
Fee is $45 pp.

Custom Orders

Additionally, I will be taking custom orders for wreaths, kissing balls, and hostess gifts starting next week. All with fresh greens, made by hand, and with lots of love! Pick up by appointment is required.


WinterFest MarketPlace Stafford

And finally, I will be participating in a great Winterfest MarketPlace in Stafford Spring, CT on December 15th – a great day for families. There will be many activities plus the vendors at the town hall. Fun day to shop and enjoy the many small businesses in the town on Main Street.

Gift Cards and Box of Greens

Don’t forget we also offer Holiday Gift Cards during the month, and Box of Greens – All details are on my workshop’s site, called

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Short Holiday Story

After one amazing day with friends and family at an annual Holiday Workshop, Cathy T found a black winter coat by the outdoor fire pit – left behind by an attendee.

She searched and asked, but for a solid year, no one claimed that beautiful black winter coat. There were no clues. Nothing in the pockets. Just an XL tag and that was it.

She didn’t remember anyone wearing that black coat. Who’s was it?

So – ever since, cause you see, if fit her perfectly, Cathy T (Mrs. KB) decided to start wearing it.

It wasn’t snug like her other black (similar) coat she usually wears this time of year, and she was thankful because every year, around the holiday workshop prep, something magical happens.

A Christmas vibe enters, music starts to be played daily of holiday tunes and the tv comes on for those corny but inspirational holiday movies, and the extra pounds get put on from all the holiday snacking while making wreaths and such for customers.

After all, much energy is needed with all the prep for Mrs. KB’s holiday workshops and custom orders.

Thus, that mysterious well-fitting black winter coat, well, it was a God-send because it fits just right during holiday time. 

Gee, was it is an attendee who left it behind? Or was it some mysterious Christmas spirit who recognized Mrs. KB needed a better, warmer coat?!

Just one of the many stories from the many years of offering these holiday workshops here at Container Crazy CT’s – and we will create more this year too.

Ho, Ho, Ho. Cathy T.

Thrillers and Spillers are needed in Succulent Dish Gardens too!

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Hello Followers!

This will be a quickie post because the sun is FINALLY out and we are expecting 85 degree temps here today in CT, so I have to head out soon, but here are some updates:

NEW SUCCS (Succulents) IN

I want to take a moment to let you know, if you are local, I have some new and “very limited” stock of succulents. Heads-up if you want to get some soon.

Also, if are in need of components and materials to create a Mother’s Day Gift (coming up on May 13th), reach out to me.

I have all the components for bubble bowl terrariums or other patio pot arrangements you may be thinking of making for your Mom or with your Mom.

Just text: 860-977-9473 or email containercathy@gmail. com or do the old fashioned phone call. We can arrange a pick up time by appointment for you, or swing by.

I am here most days (Broad Brook, CT) and on the weekends, Saturday and Sunday (between 7 am to 10:30 – 11 am).

Inspiration Station!

Secondly, OMG, I FOUND SUCCULENT HEAVEN IN FLORIDA LAST WEEK. A huge 4 floor store titled RH (Restoration Hardware) was across the street from our hotel in West Palm. Let me tell you, I saw the building and thought, “What is that place?  A hotel, a private residence? Or what?”

There were crystal chandeliers hanging outdoors above various patio like pergola sitting areas with amazing outdoor furniture out front to view before you even enter the grand doors of the main building. That alone caught my eye. I dared to enter, knowing I’m not high society rich, and looked around outside.

You never saw me whip out my iPhone so fast to take photos of the succulent dish gardens on every patio table. They were absolutely stunning, very healthy, and real – not faux.

Here’s just ONE example below. And it has the thriller, fillers, and spillers happening.

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My first thought is look at how there is a thriller (Kalanchoe paddle plant) among the other amazing succulent fillers. And look how the bowl shape is perfect. It allows you to see all the succulents clearly – and so much texture – right? We don’t always need flowers to achieve success with patio pot designs.

Get this, the ground surface under my feet, below all outdoors featured areas out front of this store, was covered in tiny pea gravel and it was raked into patterns, like a Zen garden. I didn’t know if I could I walk on it – but I figured yes, because it was a showcase store and encouraged. The staff was extremely welcoming upon entering the building after browsing the outdoor decor areas.

More Photos

For more of all the succulent dish gardens seen at RH, please visit my Instagram feed by searching Container Crazy CT on Instagram.

I can’t even get into how amazing the inside was – with 4 stunning floors – it was like entering a gallery or mansion.

Thriller Available – Today – from Cathy T

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A Unique and Cool Looking Thriller – Gasteria species – Thick Texture – Available now from me

These are the type of situations which inspire me, and that place was a great inspiration station. The way it was executed really spoke to me.

You can do this too

And folks – YOU CAN DO THIS TOO – CREATE AN AMAZING COMBINATION TO ADMIRE ON YOUR PATIO THIS YEAR. Just come see me for the tips, instructions, and plants with components. Prices are provided when you contact me.

Succulent Spiller

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String of Pearls – A Succulent Spiller

I have various succulents, fresh and new, right now available. Remember, you don’t want plants which have been subjected to frost outdoors and you don’t want tattered tired plants – so see me soon if you want to get some nice ones.

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My next Facebook Live is scheduled on May 16th to give general updates, but if you need info on current workshops, be sure to visit my site.

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Great Filler or Thriller based on style of pot – Red Edged Jade Plant (Crassulas) – Available now by me – Reach out before supplies run out

Impromptu Mini Workshops

Recently, I posted a succulent filled birdcage photo I saw on Pinterest, which inspired a few of my regular attendees. We held, what I call an “impromptu mini workshop” and made some of them – see my Instagram for photos. They came out great.

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Burro tall (Sedum burrito) – A spiller succulent – A bluish green makes nice contrast color

If you have a mini group and want to hold an impromptu session, reach out to me. We can talk.

Also, remember, I have Canna lily and green Elephant Ears starting in 5″ pots available – they will take off if this sun and warmth continues. I will be posting more progress photos of those too.

Enjoy your sunny day in the meantime.

Thank you,

Cathy Testa
Instagram Link
Zone 6 gardener
This world of mine is all about sharing inspiration, the beauty of plants, and sessions where we may enjoy all of it.

Today’s date: May 2nd, 2018 (Wednesday)

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April is Warming Up Slowly

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Good Morning Friends,

As you know, if you live in Connecticut, it is taking a bit longer for April to warm up this season, but that hasn’t stopped me from potting up my canna rhizomes and getting my precious seeds in seedling trays.

I thought now is a good time to provide some quick updates on happenings with Cathy T as we kick off the spring season and look forward to summer.

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Visit Container Crazy CT’s Page to View

First up, this week is a free Facebook Live on Wednesday, April 11th, 10:30 am Eastern to show my micro-greens growing process in a 20-30 minute demonstration. Following the demo, if you are interested in a starter kit to give this a try, please contact me (form below) or just text my telephone noted below as well.

Note: This will be the only free showing this year – don’t miss it if you like to eat healthy and nutritious micro-greens which are delicious – all year, and very nice in summer too, when we have fresh tomatoes to go with your homegrown and fresh micro-greens.

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Seeds for sale and Starting seeds

I’ve been planting up seeds like crazy this month – cherry tomatoes and big tomatoes (shown above) as well as basil, moon flowers, edamame, peppers, lettuce, etc. Some will be for me for my container gardens at home to enjoy, and others are for friends requesting I grow some for them. If you are in need of some seeds, and are local, hurry up to contact me – I have plenty of wonderful varieties above. And remember, some seeds grow well in patio pots (radish, kale, lettuces, herbs). I have some growing right now – wonderful to have at your finger tips.

Note: Seed packets make amazing gifts – put a mini succulent with it – and voila.

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Canna in a 5″ Square Pot

My winter stored rhizomes, tubers, and corms are starting to wake up from hibernation. I am planting up Canna lily, Elephant Ears, and getting my prized big red banana plants out into pots to give them an early start. I’ve offered to “hold” the canna and elephant ears for anyone interested. They should be ready by end of May or a bit earlier for your container gardens.

Note: Limited supply and based on success – or not – I hope all will go well, and will keep those who have asked to “reserve” one posted on the progress. They will start in the 5″ pots shown above and potted up as needed. Prices are based on pot and plant sizes. Details will be emailed to you if you wish to have one held for you.

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Cacti are Blooming

It is so nice to see this vivid yellow in the greenhouse – my cacti are blooming. This was a cacti garden made last Halloween for fun and I’m enjoying the colors.


With Succulents

Heads Up — If Interested! I’m holding my first terrariums workshop at the Granby Senior Center on May 9th. It will be with succulents and cacti. It is a daytime session at 1 pm on a Wednesday. Please contact the center to sign up. See their newsletter (last page) to see the complete details and price.


Note: We need a minimum of 8 attendees to hold the terrariums session at the Granby Senior Center, and the sign-up cut off date is April 20th. Please signup soon if want in.


Succulent Hanging Basket (Birds Not Included)

This succulent hanging basket is on reserve for a client. I would be happy to make more now and keep them growing so they are ready for you by end of May to put outdoors when it is warm enough. Holler if you want in.


Canna Cleopatra

This canna rocked my world last year. The foliage is mixed dark tones and green plus the flowers bloom both red and orange blooms on the same flower bud. I am growing some of these too. Again, supplies are limited, so if you think you want me to reserve you one, contact me below.

Note: Must pick up your Canna by May 25th in Broad Brook, CT. Supplies limited.

Lastly, hopefully my regulars saw that I will not be offering a May Container Workshop this season. However, I will have beautiful succulents in stock starting in early May – and I also will be offering Terrarium Kits with 10″ bubble bowls, all the interior components, and the plants. Just ask if you have any interest and hope to see you soon.

Thank you,

Cathy Testa
Container Crazy CT
Location: Broad Brook, CT

Seeds are Available Today!

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Hi everyone,

Pop on over to to see my latest post on the seeds I have available today.

If interested, fill out the contact form there. Remember, mid-March is when we start “some” seeds to prepare for the upcoming spring (if it will EVER get here).

I’ve been dabbling in seeds more these days, did a bunch of research the past couple months, and have a nice stock of new unique seeds available. I hope you will be interested.

In the meantime, stay warm – I hear we may have yet another nor’easter next week, really? Ugh.

But what is nice during these cold spills is that I have some nice salad mix growing right now – from seed, and I even pushed the limits and have some basil and oregano started from seeds as well, along with beats and radishes. All I need is some SUN.

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Also, I’m attending the Boston Flower Show this weekend – it is kind of a date weekend with the hubby. I always discover something new at the show – and we also enjoy the local restaurants (motivation even more because it will be a cold weekend in Boston this year, some years it has been more spring-like).

The info gained at the show will be shared on my Instagram feed.

More to follow!

Cathy Testa
Planting Zone 6a
Broad Brook, CT
A container gardener with a passion for art, plants, and now, seeds!

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Sweet Gifts to Warm the Heart

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Good Morning,

I said I would return to writing about “plants” – Well, flowers are plants, right?

I can not do a plant related post without first acknowledging the efforts of our wonderful guest instructors from JEM’s Horticulture and Floral Design, Jeff and Mandy Mayer, at Saturday’s Workshop here on Floral Design with Valentine’s Day Reds.

First, the flowers were absolutely ga-GAH-gorgeous! And also, this couple was very enthusiastic and concerned that each one of us were happy – which I surely think we were. Look at the attendees’ floral arrangements – absolutely beautiful. Great job by all.

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This one was created by MaryBeth. She is a returning attendee to my workshops – and she brought a beautiful blue and white bowl for her centerpiece. It is so pretty.

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This one is by Cathy P, another attendee. She rimmed the edge of her container with bling-bling before the class to fit the Valentine’s Day theme. She created an Ikebana style floral arrangement. I didn’t realize her goal was to do this unique art form until she was done because I was making my own arrangement during the class and didn’t see her progressing along until she was done. Let’s just say, she nailed it!

I have never done this Japanese style myself but the process involves arranging flowers and forms so each are displayed with a simple specific structure and balance – That is the best way I can describe it. Sometimes you will see this Ikebana style at flower shows where the arrangements are judged and awarded prizes when they adhere to the art form’s strict rules.

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Everyone’s creations were different and uniquely arranged. We joked that we felt like brides holding our arrangements. It was a fun day of creating and enjoying flowers.

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Jeff and Mandy Mayer of JEM’s make a great team. Jeff is in the center photo above demonstrating his process. He is very symmetrical with his designs, and Mandy, his wife and business partner, was going around to each individual asking if they were okay as they got into their “design” zone. Jeff too. He wanted to provide as much one-on-one attention as possible.

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We enjoyed yummy cupcakes made by a friend, Alissa. She attended my winter holiday workshop and mentioned she is an avid baker. The red velvet cupcakes looked as real as the flowers with (non fondant) frosting. Yummy.

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When I posted the above photos on Instagram, people raved about what a great job she did with this basket of yummy soft flowering sweets for us to enjoy at the workshop. My sister commented that “I spoil my class attendees.” And yes, well, I do! 🙂

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The flowers provided to each attendee were very fresh. We lucked out so many ways on this workshop day. There was an unexpected snowstorm the day before, so we had to readjust to pick up the flower order right before class started due to travel conditions being hazardous the day before. This resulted in our guest instructors having less time to set up but it all worked out. We were also lucky because they accepted my invitation to teach this workshop – and are returning in late June to do a “4th of July” Floral Centerpiece class – more on that later. Check in if interested. It is listed on the Workshop Dates link above on this blog.

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Here’s my adorable arrangement – I added lollipops to it and really think its cute.


Now it is onto another special event this weekend at a new local bookstore located close to my home called “Book Club Bookstore and More” on Main Street in Broad Brook, CT. They are hosting an “Artisans and Artists” Day on Saturday, Feb 13th. You can’t miss the store, it is adjacent to the breakfast place, before the bridge (across from the dam) by the Broad Brook Pond on Main Street in the center of town.

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If you are a book lover, this store holds book discussions, has special author events, and the interior is beautiful. The store is much bigger than you’d expect, when you enter, it has a long interior style (kind of like a shot gun style home). My friend visited recently and she told me the children’s book selection is wonderful as well.

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JEM’s will be there with me on Saturday, February 13th, from 10 am to 1 pm at the bookstore’s event too. Mandy will have flower arrangements for sale, and I’m bringing along adorable Valentine’s Day themed goodies, such as Mini Succulent Cone Bouquets and Garden Journals. We hope you will pop by. Heck, have breakfast next door then walk on over for a bit. It will be too cold to be outside anyways per this week’s forecasters.

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I spent part of my week making these tiny pompoms to add to my items – Are they so cute?! They look like min-whoville flowers.

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More embellishments to be added – These are great as a sweet gift, table setting pieces, or just for fun to say “Happy Valentine’s Day” to whomever is special in your life – it is not just for romance, it is to show your love to your love one’s. It will warm your heart on our predicted very chilly weekend. And there are other vendors participating, so we hope you will visit to stop by and say hello.

I will post more on our floral workshop later as there is more to show, but for now got to go. Looks like this snow “might” postpone my Garden Talk tonight at the South Windsor Public Library – will have to wait and see. If not, I’ll be there promptly at 7 pm. Tonight’s talk is on the How To’s of Container Gardening for Growth Success.

Happy Hump Day Everyone,

Cathy Testa

Workshop Fun – Oh, What Fun We Had!


Next month is our first workshop of the 2016 year with JEM’S Horticulture and Floral Design where we will have fun creating Valentine’s Day themed floral arrangements in containers with fresh flowers.

But before I talk more on that, I wanted to do a “flashback” of last year’s Wind-chimes Making Class which was held in April 2015.

Oh, what fun we had!

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This group of ladies are related as sisters, sister in laws, etc. After they made their wind chimes, they headed out for another event. What a nice way to spend time with relatives.

Each workshop attendee selected a unique wind-chimes topper to work with, which were furnished by our guest speaker that day, Laura Sinsigallo of Timefliesbylauralie. They were vintage and salvaged items such as the garden trowel and forks.

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This is a photo of my sister, Lisa. She had her husband cut some copper tubing to use in her arrangement. It has the most wonderful sound, and drift wood was her choice of topper.

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This is my friend, Rhonda. She also used drift wood and blue stones with a beach theme in mind for a special place she recently acquired – how nice. Part of the enjoyment of offering my workshops is knowing their hand crafted art goes to a special place by the attendees in their outdoor spaces. My wind-chime is hanging in my grow room and I love looking at it when the sun hits it!

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Also available and displayed during our workshop day was unique art by Laura Sinsigallo of Timefliesbylauralie. Laura is showcasing her art at many farmers markets and shows now – Look her up. I especially like the flower and animal themed works of art – That cow and chicken are cute.

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Laura brought lots of vintage pieces from bells to old keys, along with delicate beads for us to use that day – We really enjoyed it all.

Mother and Daughter teams have a great time at our workshops, along with friends and clients.

We hope you will check out our programs for 2016 listed above under WORKSHOP DATES and NATURE WITH ART CLASS PROGRAMS.

Up Next:

On February 6, 2016 we offer our first workshop on Floral Design. We have 9 attendees so far and can fit more – Don’t be shy if you would like to join us. You may sign up here or via Facebook.

Cost is $45 pp and includes fresh flowers, florist foam, tape, mechanics, and instruction where you will make a floral arrangement/design in a unique container of 8″ in diameter.

You may bring your own container if you wish or purchase one from our instructors the day of the workshop. More details are posted here on the blog’s menu bars, and on Container Crazy CT’s Facebook page under EVENTS.

Registration and payment is required in advance by Jan 20th of this month. A special Guest Instructor Feature will be posted very soon as well so you can learn more about our instructors.

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Gift Cards are Available

And, just a reminder, we have Gift Cards available if you wish to treat a special someone to a day of workshop fun this year for their Birthday or other special occasion. Spending time crafting is a great way to say I love you! Especially on Valentine’s Day.

Happy Friday Everyone,

Cathy Testa

The 3 Worst Jobs I had as a Teen, and the Toughest as an Adult

Cartoon Mushroom Image by MisterGC of

Cartoon Mushroom Image by MisterGC of

WORST JOB #1: The mushroom factory

I worked at the mushroom factory on Newberry Road in East Windsor, Connecticut, when I was a kid.  I think I was like 13 or 14 years old – and the only reason I worked there was because my eager sister, Lisa, wanted to make some money, so I tagged along with her to apply for a summer job there.

I didn’t like the job very much.  We went into dark rooms where large mushroom beds were stacked up like bunk beds from floor to ceiling.  It was pitch black in there because, as most people know, mushrooms grow in the dark.

We were required to wear yellow hardhats with headlamps attached on them, and carried large plastic bins to our designed mushroom beds. The planting beds had rolling ladders attached to them. Climbing to each level, I would reach in to pick the mushrooms, roll to the next spot, and toss mushrooms into the bin.

Not liking the job much wasn’t due to the working conditions. We were picking the mushrooms out of soil amended with manure, but it didn’t smell awful at all.  The soil was healthy composted soil, and only the scent filling the air was the scent of fresh mushrooms. I just found the job to be monotonous.

Unlike my sister, I had no motivation to exceed my daily picking quota. This is all she could think about – pick more, get paid more per load. Each bin fully loaded was weighed by our supervisor. My sister was, and still is, an accounting head. She always picked more than I did.

As for myself, on the other hand, I goofed off a lot at that job.  I remember one day chucking mushrooms at another friend working there, trying to hit her hardhat when she wasn’t looking, and when the supervisors weren’t paying attention.

You would think as a plant person I would dig this job because it was plant related – but to me it was the pits.

Wedding Gown photo by Rosen Georgie of

Wedding Gown photo by Rosen Georgie of

WORST JOB #2:  The box factory

How the heck I ever ended up working in an old brick building located in Warehouse Point, Connecticut, assembling cardboard boxes, mostly for wedding gown storage, is beyond me.  I think it was my older sister again who told me about the job and dragged me along.

There was an assembly room in the back of the warehouse with rickety devices that looked like something your grandpa made from pieces of wood.  You would take the flat boxes, fold the edges, and apply smelly glue, then use the old wooden tools to hold them in place to dry.  I also remember attaching the clear front window panes to the top of the cardboard box for viewing the eventual wedding gown to be placed in there by a happy bride someday.

This job was so lame.  There was no one else in the warehouse building working when we were there.  Just a couple of teens in the back assembling boxes by hand.  The rest of the building was filled with stuff, but now, I can’t remember what it was, machinery or parts, something of that nature.

When I told the supervisor I was leaving for a job in a pizza restaurant, this I remember – she responded with, “I knew you wouldn’t last.”

Pls Take Your Order by Stockimages

Pls Take Your Order by Stockimages

WORST JOB #3: The pizza kitchen

I was moving up in the world.

I applied and got a job working at a local pizza restaurant in East Windsor, Connecticut, which is still in operation today. Sofia’s pizzeria on route 5 in town. But, not as a waitress. I worked in the kitchen preparing grinders and pizzas.

One day, when a customer came to pick up an order of two pizzas, I grabbed the two stacked pizza boxes from the top of the ovens.  Moving my hands a little too quickly, the smaller pizza box on the top of the bigger pizza box slid right off and dropped to the floor, flipping over as it traveled down.

Without a second thought, I picked it up, turned it right side up, placed it on top of the other pizza box, and handed it to the customer.

When the customer walked away carrying their pizzas, the lead gal in the kitchen said to me, “What are you nuts?  That pizza has to be sticking to the cover!”

I was clueless.  The customer was too.

Another day, I got frustrated because the head chef from the back kitchen area picked me one too many times mop the floor at the end of the day.  This totally pissed me off because I felt I was asked to do this chore often.  Plus, mopping was the last chore of the day, so everyone leaves and you are there alone to finish up the final cleaning requirements.

After I was done, I loudly stomped to the storage closet, threw my apron, mop, and other stuff down a stairwell, and made the only person still there, the back kitchen supervisor, know by my actions I was displeased with being asked to mop the floor again.

He came out to speak to me, and waved a spatula in my face, as he said, “You are good worker.  Don’t get mad.”

My response was – “Why am I being asked to do the cleanup all the time?!”

Then I huffed out the front door of the restaurant.

When returning to work the next day, he walked up to me and said, “Today, you are going to work in the back kitchen.”

This was a special honor.  The back kitchen was reserved for the cooks making the sauces and pizza dough.  I learned the techniques used and got to participate in making some recipes.

However, when I returned to the front kitchen later that day, I was relentlessly teased by my coworkers. They were chanting, “Cathy and Joey up in the tree, K-I-S-S—I N G.”

I think these were probably my worst three jobs I had as a young teen.  The first two as a tween actually, and the later when I was about the age to get my driver’s license.

Eventually, I got a real job working in corporate America where I stayed for a long time, until I escaped to switch careers in the plant world in my mid 30’s.

Girl by Africa curtosey of

Girl by Africa curtosey of

The Toughest as an Adult:

This is when I experienced the toughest, not the worst, but the toughest job I had as an adult.  I got my first job working in a large and popular garden center located in Vernon, Connecticut, after completing my first horticulture courses at UCONN.

Immediately on the job, I was hit up with every single type of plant and gardening related question you could imagine by customers shopping at the store.

Questions like, “What is this bug, how do I treat my lawn, what is this disease on my plant, how do I prune this tree, what is the height of this tree, what plants bloom in spring, why can’t this grow right, Is this a weed?”  It was endless.

Oh, and the classic was when they wanted me to identify a plant and they did not bring a sample of it. When I asked them to describe it, they always started with this statement, “Well, the leaves are green.”

The customer questions went on and on every day, and being fresh in my new field – of course, I did not know all the answers, even with a degree.  And because I was a bit older, some customers assumed I was a long-time worker, but I was new in the field of plants.

A couple reference books were placed on a stand by me so I could at least look up a disease or insect problems since this was probably my weakest point.  There are so many kinds!  But seeing the plant problems hands on and learning what types of questions customers had was very rewarding because every day presented a new challenge. Every day was a new experience.

Daily, there would be some kind of body ache too.  My shoulders would ache from reaching for hanging baskets time after time, my feet would hurt from being on them all day, and spring rain would make me cold one day in the outdoor areas, where summer heat would make me hot and tired the next.  Advil became a best friend.

One day, my neck seized up so badly, I had to refuse putting hanging baskets on the lines in the greenhouses, and go see the chiropractor. And, I probably lifted one too many heavy things in a hurry like a small B&B shrub when one of the younger nursery guys were not available due to helping another customer or unloading a delivery of plants.

In this job, I was no longer a teen, but a middle-aged woman.  All the same, determination and motivation kept me there.

Not only was there a plethora of questions, many customers were overly anxious for answers.  Some days, I’m not exaggerating, customers would wait in line to speak to me.  On the busiest of days, like Mother’s Day or other holidays, the store was packed.

You really see what nursery staff is all about on those days, and they work hard during a fast moving season to help the customers. They do it because they love plants.  Why else would they endure the physical and mental demands of this type of job?

I could tell you so many stories, from a girl crying because she did not achieve the dream garden bed she wanted “just like in a gardening magazine.”  And another time, when a priest was shopping for a shrub for his church, asked me for help. He pointed to a particular shrub to ask me what it was – and no lie, he was pointing to a shrub called, Physocarpus opulifolis ‘Diablo.’  The look on his face was priceless when I told him the shrub’s name. He hurriedly walked away.

The owner of the nursery told me one day, in a firm tone, “Stop asking me that.”  I was bugging him about wanting to work in the perennials section, stating, “I think I would be better placed there for my daily responsibilities.”  Perennials were my passion at that time.

He responded with, “We already have a perennial’s manager.” I suspect this is why he assigned me to the trees and shrubs area in the outdoor nursery area.  Maybe he didn’t know yet where I fit in, and to be frank, neither did I.  But I was so willing to learn and try. I wasn’t going to complain. I was thrilled to be working in my first plant related job.

I asked him for the plant order list of all the trees and shrubs at the nursery so I could review and study them.  And, every time I had a customer interested in shrubs or trees, after my review, I would then say, “Let’s go to the perennial’s section and find a great candidate to go with these shrubs.”

After one of my customers checked out, the cashier said to me, “That was a great combination.”  I think she wanted me to help her next.  It was turning out my assignment by my boss was forcing me to see the bigger picture of design combinations and plants.  Maybe intentional.  Maybe not.

Eventually, the owner walked up to me one day, when I was watering a bench of plants to say, “You are going to learn and do landscape design.” As he abruptly walked away, the floor got watered instead of the plants because I was in shock as I stood there holding my watering wand, wondering what just happened. Upstairs I went to learn about how they did designs.

The challenges increased from there.  Juggling several factors such as learning a new design program, laying out designs for customers, visiting their homes for onsite assessments, pricing quotes for install jobs, etc.  I was doing all of this while still providing customer support every day on the nursery floor. Sometimes I felt like I had to be in two places at the same time.

The reason this job was the toughest though was because of the combinations of factors; having to know so much because the questions never ended and enduring the physical demands each day.  Not to mention the working environment was polar opposite of where I came from – a cubicle in corporate America.  Plus, I worked the weekends too.

Yet there was never a boring day.   Never a stale moment.  Never a question not to be answered.  And never ever a time of not learning something new.  I was inspired constantly.

Everyone would say how lucky I was when they learned I was working in a nursery garden center.  And I was lucky.  I was finally working in a field where I have a true passion.

As for those terrible teen jobs – well, you know, when you’re a kid, you’ll work anywhere!

Cathy Testa



Living with Wild Turkeys in My Connecticut Yard


Eastern wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo silvestris) have routines and rituals in my Connecticut yard during every season.

In the spring, summer, and winter, the flock walks up from the woodlands into my open yard behind my house in single file. Their first stop is the bird feeder.  They hit up the fallen seeds near our lower deck by scratching the ground for leftovers.

Last year, around this time of year, I thought about how the lower deck is a great place to position our motion sensor outdoor camera because it would capture images of the flock as they were eating seeds from the ground.

It worked.  The camera captured images of male turkeys puffing out their feathers and strutting their stuff.

November 2012

November 2012

And as you can see from these photos, it is truly astonishing how large they look when fully puffed out.  The male toms can reach 4 feet tall, but they look even larger at this stage.  And you will notice, its blue head and red caruncle at the neck is in full color.  I guess this occurs as another way to “show off” to the female turkeys in the group.  It is just incredible what these guys do for their females.  They put on quite a show.

Side View - Massive!

Side View – Massive!

After they are done snacking on the birdseeds, the flock will slowly and cautiously walk past my side door over the driveway, and then proceed down my long driveway to the road.  As they strut along in single file, it is quite amusing.  I always think to myself, “Well, there they go, off to work again for the day.”

Turkey Testa_0024

They probably have a routine of visiting every feeder or garden on our street, but by late day, you can guarantee, they come right back down my driveway – in single file – to return to our birdfeeder for their last snack before retreating into the woods again for their evening roost.

Once, in the very early morning, I could see several turkeys perched way up high in tall pine trees.  Eventually, they fly down again, and it is something to see a big turkey gliding through the sky to land on our lawn.

There’s been times when the turkeys have stood on a railing of our deck or on the edge of the pool.  Usually there is one turkey “on guard” being careful to look around for potential threats.  The guard turkey won’t eat with the others while on duty, and sends out warnings sounds if something, like me, comes by.

Turkey Testa_0023

But this past summer, there were many times when the turkeys would also sit in the yard and relax.  They are getting comfortable to say the least.  And a few times, in fact, this summer, when I was on my deck sitting in a chair, they would extend their necks up to look at me, but they didn’t run away. Until I got up.  Then they would feel threatened and take off or at least move a distance away until they felt it was safe again.

One year, I witnessed three toms standing side by side and shoulder to shoulder during their mating season.  They were completely puffed out and turned together in unison as if they were locked together.  If you can imagine it like an airplane turning slowly around, it looked like that.  Remarkable.  I wished I caught that one on camera as they turned slowly together to face the females in their surroundings.  I guess they were looking for a threesome. LOL.

Another time, I saw two toms in a serious battle in my front yard.  Their necks were wrapped around each other – and each pushed and tussled the other as they were locked into this position for at least a half hour or so.  At times, I was sure one would have their neck broken by the other.  I felt sorry for them, but best to let nature do their thing as they continued into the woodlands to duke it out.  I didn’t witness the end of their wrestling match.

In early June, the young baby poults arrive.  There are many with the female hens.  It does not take long for them to grow up and look like full sized adult turkeys. And then there are times when I see a solo turkey in the yard.  He wanders the yard by himself.  But, I guess they do this until they find a mate.  Or he thinks I’m his mate, he seems to like hanging around.

Another year, we had an injured turkey visiting – walking with a hobbled leg.  Because he was weak, the other turkeys would be a little aggressive towards him.  However, he wouldn’t give up and continued to stay with the group as much as he could.  The turkey pecking order is strong, and part of the wild scene you have to accept, even though it seems cruel at times. It is wild turkey bullying.

We don’t directly feed the wild turkeys, but allow them to take what they find from our yard.  They have never damaged our gardens, and sometimes will peck at the blackberries, but overall, they have been harmless.

Our cat inspecting the hidden camera, notice her ear moves in second shot!

Our cat inspecting the hidden camera, notice her ear moves in second shot!

And as close as they get to us proximity wise, no real danger has ever come to us ever since we’ve been witnessing them here in our yard.  They only bring us joy because they seem so comfortable here and offer an occasional laugh, like when they chase off our cats.  It doesn’t take long for the cats to realize who is in charge.

When I find turkey feathers left behind in the yard, I collect them to use in decorations, like I did with a pumpkin this year, or I’ll put them in my Thanksgiving Day arrangements or on Christmas wreaths.

Feathers in Pumpkin

Feathers in Pumpkin

The gobble noises and sounds made by the wild turkeys can be quite loud at times, especially during their breeding season in the fall.  I’ve read you can hear it from a mile away.  I’m not surprised. I often hear them in my backyard from the house.  I love the noises they make because it is interesting.  The different tones and cackles represent every action or purpose.  One of these days, I will know them all.

But the most interesting thing I think I saw in regards to wild turkeys was when one was helping an injured turkey across the road.  A large turkey had a small one under its big wing, and was carrying it away.  At first I wasn’t sure what was going on, but as I approached closer, it appeared the mature turkey was carrying away an injured smaller turkey, perhaps hit by a car.

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

Nature never ceases to amaze me.  And with Thanksgiving approaching, talking about wild turkeys seems a bit appropriate.  Unless you like to eat them.  In that case, I say stick with the store-bought or farm raised types.  I suffer from the Bambi syndrome.  I prefer to watch the wild types, and can’t seem to eat meat from wild deer, turkey, or rabbits.  No matter how many times my hunting relatives tell me it is good.

Images courtesy of

Images courtesy of

It is only 2 weeks until Thanksgiving everyone.  I hope you have a very pleasant holiday and spot some turkeys in your surroundings.  If not in your yard, perhaps on your plate!

Gobble, Gobble,

Cathy Testa

Turkey Links:

Camera Used:

We purchased our camera from Cabela’s.  It is called RECONYX Hyperfire model, and it has worked very well at capturing motion in the woods or other areas of our surroundings as we have moved it around from place to place. We have also captured photos of deer, a bobcat (Lynx rufus), coyote, fox, racoons, beaver, skunks, our male cat, other stray cats, rabbits, birds, and even a man with a machete.  Turns out it was a neighbor (phew).  One very interesting shot was when a deer bed down to sleep right in front of the camera – very cool.  And moving trees, leaves, even sunshine casting down, showing shadows moving across the ground during the day, is photographed. Snowstorms are fun too as you can see the level of the snow rising over time in sequential shots, so long as it doesn’t bury the camera. Maybe even YOU were snapped – a friend captured when you came by to visit – Bet you didn’t know that, did ya?  LOL!!!